Q. Alan, what is your take on a big CX Transformation Programme as a Strategy?
A. It doesn’t work!!


Image Headway, Unsplash

When I was asked to share my views on this topic it felt familiar, I have been asked this before by clients and prospects, by CX Practitioners and CEO’s and my answer is always the same

“don’t talk to me about CX and transformation in the same sentence, it won’t work hasn’t work and most likely never will work!”

In experience terms it sets an expectation that is only ever going to be classified as ‘failed to meet’ and undermines the credibility of CX/EX as key components of a business strategy.

Just look at the Cambridge dictionary definition of transformation “a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone” and in this case to reflect your customer experience driving your decisions at every point in the desired end state.

That is a big enough challenge to send all staff into paroxysms of fear and the result is collective passive resistance to this imposition and the abrogation of all responsibility to a ‘Transformation team’ that can be shot at and obstructed at every turn – so who is putting their hand up for this poison chalice??

If someone can definitively show me where this has truly been achieved I will be delighted to quote it at every turn, well apart from huge consultancies who are of course very keen to push their clients into these 2-5 year ‘projects’ and pocket the associated fees with little or no risk or skin in the game themselves.

We have not even begun to look at the budgets, resources, emotional energy and the rest that are sucked up by these strategies, or the way that as soon as a short term crisis emerges in business as usual this is the first area paused, budget cut, de-prioritised, please don’t tell me this doesn’t happen because that is the reality.

Given my apparent negativity towards CX transformation it’s fair to ask what the alternative is?

Well that could be the subject of a bigger article than this but suffice to say that first you have to accept that in any mature business not specifically established around its CX you must acknowledge at the outset that your approach to CX must be to see it as ONE of the key elements of your business strategy, that in itself is a big leap in many cases.

Your customer experience is actually an outcome, an outcome of lots of choices you make from your brand message and positioning to your channel choices, your embracing of digital and more.

True change happens by degrees if it is truly going to become an accepted part of your business thinking, your culture and your behaviours.


"True change happens because lots and lots of little things have changed and those changes have been delivered by lots and lots of different people with minimal disruption to their normal working day"

True change happens because lots and lots of little things have changed and those changes have been delivered by lots and lots of different people with minimal disruption to their normal working day, the challenge is to create the environment for CX to thrive and to connect it into the day to day rhythm of what you do and how you do it.

The suggestion of transformational change may excite some but it scares more, so why scare the horses in the first place, all you have succeeded in doing by making a grand announcement of a CX transformation programme is started from a place of potential negativity, as people have said for years “culture eats strategy for breakfast” well it definitely eats CX for breakfast, lunch and dinner, just ask a few hardened CX Practitioners who fight the battle daily.

I am very aware that there will be many who don’t agree with my take, but it’s based on many years of frustration trying to support clients who have chosen this transformation road, what do you think?

What I do know is that where the businesses I advise follow the advice they are much more successful at driving real positive change and really do begin to evolve their culture to be more customer experience aware and start to exhibit behaviours that will support that shift into the future.

That just makes me happy!


Alan Pennington, recognised as one of the global experts in the field of customer and employee experience strategy, mapping and design, Alan is a best-selling author, Non-Executive Director, a Customer Experience Special Advisor to selected listed companies and to one of the top 4 Global Consulting Businesses as well as a coach, mentor and trainer.

He co-founded Mulberry Consulting in 2003 building the business into the number one Customer Experience consultancy globally. The business was sold in 2014.

He has been responsible for the design and deployment of customer experience programmes in large service and B2B organisations for over 25 years, clients have included Citibank Cards, Emirates Airlines, UPS, Aon, Aviva, Reed Elsevier, British Council, Mazda and Merrill Lynch. Alan is the European Customer Experience Organization, UK ambassador.

Follow Alan

Want to see more articles like this?
Join ECXO today

Discover a community of leaders and organizations that are committed to working and evolving together to raise the collective customer and employee experience across Europe.

Have unlimited access to ECXO’s unrivalled content.

ecxo logo large

Already a member? Click here to login